Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sick Days

Yesterday, I made a tongue-in-cheek prediction that Republicans across Wisconsin would be calling in sick so they could go down to Milwaukee to protest President Obama's appearance at Master Lock.  Little did I know that Governor Scott Walker would be a Republican that would actually follow through on the idea.

Much was made on Tuesday about how the Governor was going to meet with the President and appear with him at Master Lock.  Then Wednesday morning, Walker's office announced that he had come down with the stomach flu--and would not be meeting with the President.  That was then clarified to state that the Governor would meet the President at the airport and give him a personalized Brewers jersey--but not accompany him on the trip to the plant.  Apparently, a couple dozen protesters missed that memo as they showed up at Master Lock with "recall Walker" signs.

The whole thing got me thinking about sick days.  I have taken exactly one and a half sick days since I started working at the age of 16.  One of those was when I had the chicken pox in high school and my boss at the restaurant didn't want me anywhere near there.  The half-day came when I literally got sick--mid-story on the air--in the radio studio up in Marinette-Menominee.  That's it--23-years of work--one and half sick days.

I'm lucky in that I hardly ever get sick.  But when I do, I still feel like I'm obligated to put in the best effort that I can on that day.  A lot of it deals with guilt--thinking that I am putting an even greater burden on my already over-stretched co-workers to not only get their work done--but then do some of mine as well.  It could also be the "Wally Pipp/Lou Gehrig syndrome" where you fear that if you miss a day, your replacement will have the job forever after that.

On the flip side, I know people who use every single sick day to which they are entitled--every single year.  I am amazed by their body's "regularity" in always getting too ill to work the maximum number of times it is allowed--without costing that person any money.  And just as amazingly, once those sick days are used up in say, November--those December "head colds" and "upset stomachs" are just tolerable enough to still come to work--and then complain to everyone in the entire office about just how terrible they feel, but they don't have any sick days left to take.

I can't really blame the "sick to the max" crowd for taking advantage of the system.  I work in a private-sector environment--meaning we don't get to carryover our sick time from year to year.  We use it or lose it (same with our paid vacation days as well).  Plus, we don't get payout for unused sick time that we accrue over the years--so there isn't that added bonus for just showing up every day when it comes time to leave the company (by choice or by force).

So here's to those of us who always find a way to get to work.  May our "amazing" good health and work ethic continue.


  1. Get off your high horse.

    You took six months off to get your ass kicked in an election for public office then managed to come back to the same job. That's more or less the equivalent of taking 180 consecutive sick days. That's no different than the guy who plays hooky to interview for another job.

  2. I am a paramedic. When I am sick with the flu or a nasty cold or bronchitis, do you want me picking you up if you're sick? Last week we took someone with leukemia to Milwaukee. Her immune system is compromised. If she were your daughter, would have wanted me in the back of the ambulance with her if I was sick some way? I have heard you on the radio struggling through a cold. But do you want your doctor with diarrhea doing your physical exam? I don't.

    Your willingness to come to work is admirable. But how does the guy sitting across from you feel? Or the guy that follows you who gets to breathe the germs you left on the microphone? Do you struggle to come to work when you're sick so you don't have to burn a day off? Is that fair to the people you work with?

    Life is a lot easier when you don't have children. My wife and I both work. My wife is able to adjust her schedule so that when I am at work she is able to flex her schedule so she can get the kids home from school. But what if one of the kids is sick and we both have to work? What do we do with the kids? One of us has to stay home. Are we to be admonished for putting our family in front of our careers while our children are sick?

    One last example....if you twist your ankle playing basketball, or tweak your back with your golf swing, it's not all that hard for you to come to work the next day. All you have to do it sit behind a desk; your voice is you livelihood. But what if I sprain my ankle playing hoops? Or hurt my shoulder playing hockey? How do I go to work and get on the floor with sick people, or crawl into a car that has rolled over, or lift people who easily weigh in excess of 200 pounds when I am injured?

    Abuse of sick leave is something a few people think is acceptable. They give the rest of us who work hard a bad name. There are a few bad apples in every bunch. Don't let their behavior cloud your opinion of anyone, even if they're a public employee or, God forbid, a Democrat.

    I look forward to a response.

    Chuck Hable

  3. I'm not sure I agree that working when sick is necessarily a good thing. As a supervisor my first thought was that the sick employee is spreading the disease to the well ones. Also, I know from experience that when I'm sick the quality of my work can be fairly poor. And in some cases working instead of staying home resting may prolong the illness. From a cost-benefit standpoint I lean towards employees staying home when sick.

    Regarding Mr. Krause's being off only one day when he had chicken pox, he was probably working while contagious. Considering the possibility of transmitting this disease to others and the possible effects, especially for pregnant women, this is not something I would brag about.

  4. Just like Walker, I work for the state -- for almost a quarter of a century now. I've had to take one sick day (plus a half-day for a funeral, for one of my parents). And the work still had to be done, as no one else does what I do.

    That's the way it was when I was in the private sector, too. And that's the way it is for a lot of us in the public sector, worry not. Many of my co-workers have worked longer for the state and have a better record than mine, as they have had no sick days at all.